Pitalkhora Caves are known for its fascinating carvings

Pitalkhora Caves are known for its fascinating carvings

The Pitalkhora caves, one of the original centres of rock-cut construction in India and older than the world-famous Ellora caves, especially the paintings over there, are lying in a state of utter disrespect.

The Pitalkhora (20°15’ N; 75°15’ E) or “Brazen Glen” is located at a area of nearly 25 km west of Kannad, a tehsil headquarters in Aurangabad district and nearly 40 km west of Ellora caves. On the Aurangabad – Chalisgaon road, one has to take a diversion at Kalimath and travel nearly 4 km to reach the caves. The caves are located in a valley below and one has to ascend the steep steps to reach down. A stream, usually full of water during monsoon greets the visitors midway during the descent, and after crossing over through an iron bridge create by the ASI, one reaches the caves.

Pitalkhora Caves are known for its fascinating carvings. One of the largest group of Buddhist structures belonging to Hinayana school, the rock-cut caves in the district of Aurangabad date back from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD.

Comprising mainly of viharas, the Buddhist caves were discovered after the Ajanta Caves were found and were first mentioned in report that was published in 1853 with the description of four caves.

About 48 km away from Ellora Caves, the Pitalkhora Caves date back to the 2nd century BC. There are many bizarre statues in the caves that feature Yaksha figures. The main access to the caves has a wide balcony with statues of a ‘naga’ (snake), guards and a row of elephants.

There are a total of fourteen caves overlooking the ravines with many caves subsist of paintings and carvings that date back to the 1st century AD. The caves can be divided in to two groups because of their location – the first to the ninth cave face east or north and are bordering to each other while all the caves in the second group from the tenth cave to the fourteenth; face south.

The first cave, which has been injured, was used as a monastery or ‘vihara’. The second, third and fourth cave have similar courtyards and seem to belong to the same period.

The third cave has the best paintings and there are 37 pillars that separate the aisle from the hall. The inscriptions on each pillar indicate that they were added directly over a period of time by rulers of Paithan. There are steps that lead down to a basement where there are many carvings and a stupa which houses many rare crystals.

There are animal designs, small windows for miniature ‘chaityas’, elephants, guards and Yaksha statues in the caves. Due to the decrease power of the pillars, they have been replaced with concrete pillars to prevent the caves from caving in.